Monday, June 20, 2011

If You Wanna Squeal Said The FBI, We Can Make A Deal Make It Worth Your While

There's a very fine piece by Beehive City's Adam Sherwin about the increasing tension between The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before He) and various parts of the BBC over the way in which recent stories related to Doctor Who have been handled: 'What particularly seems to have annoyed Moffat,' writes Adam, 'was a BBC News online entertainment story headlined Sherlock success will hit Doctor Who, says BBC One boss. The story quotes [Danny] Cohen telling a Derbyshire media conference that Moffat "needs enough time to get [Sherlock] done and then start work on the next series of Doctor Who … There's only so many hours of the day he can be awake." It's hard to resist the image of Cohen pacing impatiently outside a sleep-deprived Moffat's door, willing the writer to press "send" on another slice of ratings-winning gold. Neil Gaiman, writer of The Sandman, who was brought on board to pen a Doctor Who episode, asked Moffat: "Is it my imagination or are you being shafted by BBC online news?" An irritated Moffat replied to Gaiman on Twitter: "It's not your imagination. Unbelievable, unacceptable.' Moffat clarifies: "The scheduling of Doctor Who has got NOTHING to with Sherlock." Cohen, who is said to want more Sherlocks, currently limited to runs of three ninety-minute episodes, has tried to smooth over the "misunderstanding" with Moffat. It was a curious choice for the Controller to make the Doctor Who announcement and discuss his star writer's work schedule as an aside at a conference supposedly on religion and the media. In this era of blockbuster drama "brands," with huge international sales, "show-runner" [sic] writer/producers like Moffat are more important to broadcasters than replaceable "talent" like Cheryl Cole. Especially writers like Moffat, who turned down the chance to pen Steven Spielberg’s Tintin epics to take over Doctor Who and isn't afraid to respond on Twitter if he feels slighted.' All valid stuff. Steven has, clearly, been considerably irked that some offhand comments by Danny Cohen (which the latter almost certainly shouldn't have made, even if only in jest) have effectively shifted the 'blame' for the lack of a full season of Doctor Who next year - if, indeed, that's the way it pans out - onto yer actual Moffat himself. You really can't fault the chap for being a bit pissed about that.

A couple of important points have come out this whole fiasco. Firstly, that the BBC has been seen to be very much reactive rather than proactive over the last few weeks, publicly announcing the commissioning of the next series - or, at least, the next batch of fourteen episodes - of Doctor Who seemingly in direct response to Private Eye's (reportedly, mostly inaccurate) piece about various alleged financial and organisational problems within the corporation related to Doctor Who. A story which also, apparently, got not just Moffat but quite a few other BBC executives very annoyed indeed. One has the vision of people within the BBC at executive level running around like chickens with their heads cut off muttering 'what're we gonna do? What're we gonna do?' the second that the Eye story hit the streets. But, secondly, and actually much more importantly, we have a situation where Danny Cohen - whom Keith Telly Topping must admit, this blogger always thought was a pretty decent bloke and who might still yet turn out to be a terrific BBC1 controller - is at a media conference with lots of reporters present and is asked a question from the floor about the future of Doctor Who. And, instead of saying, tactfully - and probably truthfully - 'look, we're in the process of working out a schedule for all concerned at the moment, contracts have yet to be signed, so it's a bit premature to talk about that just yet. We'll have an announcement in a couple of months and I think you're all going to be gobsmacked by some of the things we've got coming up as we move toward the series fiftieth anniversary in 2013,' he does something flaming unbelievably stupid instead. He goes into a lengthy, rambling, not very articulate (apparently only semi-serious, but that's hardly an excuse) description of Steven Moffat's need for sleep and, in a back-handed way, sets Doctor Who fandom's pants on fire with the revelation that 2012 won't see a 'full' series. And then, he goes schtum on the whole subject having let the cat out of the bag so we still don't actually know what any of that means. Object lesson in knowing when to keep your trap shut there, Daniel.

The ironic thing, however, is that Cohen almost got away with it. The comments passed pretty much unnoticed by most of the media in the two days after he said them (the Gruniad hardly mention it in their report on the convention, preferring instead to concentrate on the much more important question of whether Dot Branning in EastEnders was 'a good Christian' or not). That was until, three days later, when some glake in the BBC News website office gleefully publishes all this tittle-tattle - presumably in the hope of getting an 'exclusive'. And they did so, seemingly, without even doing Moffat the basic courtesy of contacting him first to ask if he had anything to add. Instead, because it was easier for the lazy gits one presumes, they just took some of his quotes from Twitter and used them instead. Case, clearly, of the left hand not knowing whom the right hand was doing. As mentioned previously, this blogger really doesn't care how many episodes of Doctor Who the BBC makes next year or when they are shown so long as they're good ones. That's, pretty much, been Keith Telly Topping's attitude towards Doctor Who since it returned to our screens in 2005. If we get one episode, that's one more than we got in any year between 1990 and 2004. (Except 1996 and that wasn't a very good one so it doesn't really count.) This is all a bonus for me because I thought the show - one which I first watched as a trembling four year old in 1968 - was dead and gone forever. Nevertheless, it's hard not to feel somewhat bewildered that various parts of the BBC appear to be bending over backwards to undermine the perception which Russell Davies and others within the BBC worked so hard to achieve; that everybody within the corporation was, when it came to Doctor Who, singing from the same song-sheet and pulling in, essentially, the same direction. Of course, aspects of fandom will always find something to whinge about (a day wouldn't be a day if some Doctor Who fans weren't complaining about something). The latest example is a lengthy - and, frankly, bloody hilarious - thread on the Gallifrey Base forum in which someone has taken offence at Moffat's instruction to 'hush' and be patient in one of his Twitter postings related to what he's got planned for next year and beyond. Which, they seem to believe, was directed at them personally. There's the additional complaint that Moffat, seemingly, doesn't wish to listen - shock, horror - to the whinges of a couple-of-dozen mouthy numbskull malcontents on the Internet as to how he should be making a show that's being watched by an average of eight million people per week and change it accordingly. Another day, another Doctor Who story. Predictable, isn't it? Don't you sometimes long, wistfully, for The Wilderness Years when there wasn't a show for people to get prissy and proprietorial and bang on about their sense of entitlement over? No, me neither, if I'm honest. For better or worse, this blogger would sooner have Doctor Who as a living, breathing entity and put up with a daily dose of The Special People and their nonsense malarkey than the alternative. Here endeth the lesson.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day it's a tale of all manner of kefufflement, backstabbing and outrageous doings from yer actual Mister Kid Creole and his several Coconuts. Ha-cha-cha-cha!

1 comment:

Steffen Peddie said...

I have read the whole thing as it has happened and wondered the reasoning behind what seems to be a great way to play "Lets Piss off Mr Moffat".

I echo your sentiments, and agree, any new who is good who. Be it one new episode or twenty!